While researching a criminal defense attorney for your matter, an important consideration may be cost and how the attorney or law firm charges for criminal cases. Criminal defense attorneys will typically handle a case on a flat fee basis although it may be possible to have an hourly fee basis depending on the attorney and circumstances. What a criminal attorney will charge for your case and how those charges are determined are generally based on the following:
- If your case is a misdemeanor or a felony
- The complexity of your case & the expected time that will need to be devoted to the case.
- Attorney or firm experience in handling this particular type of case
Most criminal & DUI attorneys charge a flat fee for the majority of criminal matters. For both misdemeanors and felonies, this can be very cost effective. A typical misdemeanor case involves an arraignment and a pre-trial conference where the majority of cases are disposed of pursuant to a plea or sentence negotiation. While you can go to county jail for a misdemeanor conviction, you are less likely than if you were charged with a felony and the jail sentences that are imposed generally range from a few days to a few months with up to one year being the maximum. Fines may not be more than $1000. Flat fees are often charged through the preliminary hearing stage for felonies which is the last step prior to trial. A trial retainer is often charged only if a case proceeds to the trial stage.
The advantage in charging a flat fee is that you know that you will not be charged additional fees and that the fee will not change regardless of how many hours the attorney expends on the case. There may be other costs, however, for retaining investigators or experts in matters like a DUI or drug cases where chemical analysis and test results may need to be challenged.
Legal fees are based on their experience, abilities, familiarity and practice in the specific type of case for which you are being charged. Criminal Defense specialists are more aware of what elements of your case may be missing key evidence, are adept at planting reasonable doubt in the minds of prosecutors and jurors and in presenting challenges and arguments that a general practitioner is less likely to pursue. They are also more experienced in plea negotiations and in presenting alternative dispositions, which may save clients money on classes or required programs and fines .
Hourly fee cases are usually limited to complex matters such as complex white collar crimes or consulting. Some of these cases may take many months or even years to resolve and take vast amounts of time and resources to handle.
In an hourly fee case, the client will pay an initial retainer and the attorney will use a trust account where the fees will be deposited. As the attorney or firm bills for its time, the fees are drawn from the trust account with a billing statement sent to the client on a monthly basis. When the trust account fees are near zero or approach a certain amount, the client must pay an additional amount into the account based on a negotiated amount of time to be spent on a case.
Complex matters such as financial crimes or homicide may require the retention of numerous experts to explain accounting practices or policy or to challenge police procedures such as handling of evidence, blood or breath test results and other evidence. Expert and investigator fees are paid separately from the legal fees and may be charged hourly as well. If experts testify at trial, they will charge their own fee depending on how long they are in court, whether testifying or not.
A benefit of a case taken on an hourly basis is if the case settles quickly, then the client may have been charged less than what a flat fee would have cost, though most attorneys will charge a minimum fee in any case. Any unused portion of the fees in the trust account are returned to the client.
Flat fee billing is advantageous to the client who has paid the bill, or made adequate arrangements, and need not be concerned about additional legal fees so long as the client is aware that the fee may or may not include trial preparation and what that added fee will be.
The Aizman Law Firm charges all criminal matters on a flat fee basis. If expert or other costs are possible, then you will be advised of the additional costs before you sign a retainer agreement with us.